A clear glass filled with light
Corresponds with Lord of the Slaves
Frodo sits in his armchair by the fire,
at the blanket on his lap. The new slaves cluster
together, talking in low voices, trying to comfort
each other. If Frodo had not stopped Vartang just
now, he would have whipped them, and that terrifies
these women and children who were so recently free.
Findulas' little boys burrow into her full skirts as
she casts wary glances at the door where Vartang has
just stormed out. The dignified sisters from Rohan
barely contain their rage, while Rian has succumbed to
the tears she has been holding back. Arnasa watches
the scene with her usual detachment, waiting for
Frodo's next command.
"Arnasa," Frodo calls softly.
She has to step closer
to hear him. "Would you call Sador in here?" he asks.
Arnasa bows and returns quickly with the
Sador strides up to Frodo, grinning and bowing
Exhausted from his outburst at Vartang,
slowly and quietly. But this works well for the
Harradrim, who is far from fluent in the Common
Tongue. Frodo gestures toward the slaves. "They all
have brands on their shoulders. They need medicine
for pain. Can you help them?" He raises his eyebrows
A big smile bursts onto Sador's face. He
head up and down. "Yes, Master! I make very good
medicine for pain. I make tea and salve. Sador make
them well, just like I make you well."
The man is like an eager-to-please child.
help but smile. "Thank you. And the Rohirrim man,
too, please, and yourself if you need it."
Sador shakes his head. "No! Me, long
time ago, long
long time ago I was branded to serve the Great Eye.
But I am proud to serve the Great Eye! And happy to
serve you, Master." He bows out of the room.
After an awkward pause, Sador returns with
everyone. There is polite, if strained, chatter as
the slaves drink it, avoiding the eyes of the "proud"
servant of Sauron. Soon they go back to their rooms
with some of the salve, but Frodo calls Findulas,
Anborn and Targon back to him.
Findulas turns a questioning look on Frodo,
softens when she reads concern for her boys in his
face. He has raised his drooping head in their
direction, his wide eyes startlingly blue against his
"They are so young to lose their home,"
he says sadly.
Findulas thinks she sees vague memories crossing
Sador applies his ointment to the boys'
the effect is delayed and the pressure of his hand is
painful. Six-year-old Anborn shuts his eyes
stoically, clinging to his mother, but four-year-old
Targon bursts into tears. His sobs are full of the
terror of losing his father, his home, and his sense
of safety. Frodo vividly remembers what it is like to
be beaten into submission, held down and tortured--he
was still enduring it only weeks ago--and he shudders
at the thought of it happening to such young children.
Findulas is obviously remembering it too, chafing at
her powerlessness to protect her children. She tries
to comfort them, but her endurance finally breaks, and
she sinks down, covering her face in despair.
Frodo holds out a small, shaking hand.
his weeping brother over to stand beside their new
master. Frodo speaks to them, haltingly at first, but
slowly he gains strength. His voice flows over them
like a gentle river, telling of starlight and music
and beauty that endures beyond all darkness. The boys
and their mother form a little circle around his
chair, drinking in his words of hope long forgotten,
but now rekindled.
During the anguished months at Lugburz,
unable to find this hope for himself, but now his
concern for these other sufferers has sparked a light
in him that he had thought extinguished forever. It
is the grace that Gandalf saw when he called Frodo "a
clear glass filled with light."
Now the glass has grown paper thin, and
countless engravings that add to its beauty, but also
to its fragility. But the weakening of its vessel has
allowed the light to grow strong. It animates Frodo's
failing body with a burst of new energy and reveals
the beauty in his worn face. Even the streaks of gray
in his once-sable hair shine like strands of silver.
His eyes no longer bear the expression of a cornered
animal, but the radiance that Sam once called
"Elvish." Findulas and her boys listen almost with
reverence to this sad, broken figure speaking words of
such beautiful power.
Finally Frodo falls back into the chair.
drops to his chest. Findulas is at his side before
anyone else. She bends down to him and gently lifts
his chin. He smiles faintly at her. "He seems so
close to Mandos," she thinks, "that I can almost see
the light of Valinor in his eyes."
Nor Bid The Stars Farewell
Corresponds with The Circles of the World
The bearers set down Frodo's litter. He
does not move
or speak, nor does he give any sign of realizing they
have arrived at his cottage. Ceolwulf watches the
exhausted girls retreat to their room, traumatized but
saved from the sacrificial altar. Then he puts an arm
around Frodo's shoulders, preparing to pick him up.
Fear starts into Frodo's eyes at his touch, but they
glaze over again when he recognizes Ceolwulf. The
Rohirrim slides his other arm under Frodo's knees and
lifts him from the chair. Suddenly Ceolwulf notices
that he is shivering. At first, he attributes it to
his grief at the harrowing scene he has just
witnessed; the sacrificial victims' cries still ring
in his ears. Then he realizes he also shivers because
Frodo is cold as ice, or at least his left side is,
pressed against Ceolwulf's chest.
There are no words for the gravity, the
horror of this
day. Ceolwulf and Frodo maintain their heavy silence
as they make their way through the door and hallway to
Frodo's chamber. Ceolwulf carefully places him on the
Edain-sized bed, the black-swathed pillows towering
over him. Ceolwulf straightens and opens his mouth to
ask if Frodo needs anything, but he stops with a
twinge of alarm. Frodo looks as though someone were
holding a knife to his throat. His face has a chalky
pallor, and his body is so tense that he cannot even
tremble. A small shudder escapes him from time to
time. His chest rises and falls laboriously. His
impossibly wide eyes seem to stare at a continually
worsening scene of horror.
There are twenty of them. Twenty! Frodo's
into his finger.
"They all die for you, Frodo Baggins
of the Shire.
They die to honor your generosity in returning My
Ring!" Laughter, like knives cutting into him. Like
the morgul blade, stabbing into his flesh, stabbing
into Sam's heart as he looks on.
In gruesome detail, Frodo sees every one
maidens die. All twenty of them. He hears every
scream of terror or defiant challenge. And then he
sees his own slaves suffering the same fate--Rian's
beautiful, sad eyes streaming tears, Elfhild and
Elffled dignified but weeping silently, Arnasa radiant
at the long-awaited fulfillment of her wish. "And
they shall surely suffer this fate--as surely as you,
worthless Shire-rat, are My thrall."
How can I protect them? Frodo's mind screams.
not protect Sam. I could not even protect myself.
His eyes blazing forth malice, Sauron holds
out towards Frodo. The Ringbearer's longing for it
precludes all else, and he moves forward as though
hypnotized. Suddenly a cry diverts his
attention--Sam's voice. A grim black robe towers
above Sam's pitiable figure. Spiked gauntlets keep a
cruel hold on his arms. Sam's eyes search Frodo's,
trying not to show his fear, but Sam pants heavily,
his cracked lips parted. Both hobbits watch the
glowing blade as it slowly nears Sam's heart.
"A Elbereth Glithoniel!" Frodo
shouts, but the blade
stops only momentarily. Sam begins a desperate
struggle, but freezes with an agonized scream as the
knife pierces him. Only then do the Nazgul free the
hobbits. Sam collapses, his face contorted in pain.
Frodo gathers him up, Sauron's taunts filling his
ears, Sam's tortured gaze meeting his own, until
Frodo's best friend literally fades away in his arms,
and Frodo is dragged off to the lowest cell in
There is nothing but darkness, the impenetrable
darkness where there is no time, no day or night, no
outside world. Only the cold hard floor, and the
hunger and the pain. He is in a tomb, buried here
forever, yet he cannot die. They will not let him. I
can endure no more, he thinks over and over, but every
time there is a potion or a spell or a flask of orc
draught, and he lives. Oh, what unspeakable
bitterness it was to be so close to death, so close
that he could almost look up and see the dark ceiling
parting above him, but unable to move from the floor,
pinned in a tortured body. Flashes of memory blaze in
his mind, unbearable fires of torture and fear and
shame...but he cannot remember it all. Nor does he
want to. If only the visions would stop!
"Frodo! Mast--my friend, Frodo!
hands are on Frodo's shoulders, shaking him gently.
Beads of sweat form on Ceolwulf's brow. What if Frodo
does not wake, but sinks deeper into this dark spell?
What if the potions Vartang has given him have done
this to Frodo, and Ceolwulf has not realized it, but
let him be poisoned? He feels the hobbit's forehead,
hoping to find it warmer, but it is still cold.
When Ceolwulf's hand passes over his eyes,
suddenly jerks his head up, gasping as though he were
drowning. He trembles, almost convulsing, and
Ceolwulf piles blankets over him. But Frodo moves his
shaking hands up to grasp at his collar, struggling to
"I can't breathe," he gasps.
Ceolwulf tears off
Frodo's ornate vest and lays it on a chair, then
undoes the small collar and all the other buttons for
good measure. As soon as he raises Frodo to a sitting
position, the hobbit begins to cough.
"Sador and Vartang are still at the
Ceolwulf cries, staring at Sador's supplies. "Which
is the right bottle of medicine?" But Frodo is
coughing too hard to answer.
Ceolwulf can do nothing but hold the bowl
and wait. At first he entreats Frodo to stop, but
that only makes the halfling more agitated, so
Ceolwulf falls silent. Finally he bows his head and
begins to pray to the Valar. Frodo begins to relax
almost immediately, and soon he is silent, his head
resting on his chest. His open shirt has almost
"Here, I will get your nightshirt,"
removing Frodo's formal shirt.
"No!" Frodo cries, clutching
at the shirt, but it is
too late. The maze of deep scars that covers his
torso is exposed in all its gruesome ugliness. Anger
flushes the color back into his face, and he bites
back hasty words. How could Ceolwulf do this to him?
How could he stand there and gape at Frodo's greatest
shame? Frodo turns away, and it is long before he can
meet Ceolwulf's eyes again.
As Frodo expected, horror is written all
Ceolwulf's face. This is as bad as the worst cases of
battle wounds he has seen, but this is more disturbing
because it is the result of planned, prolonged malice.
But when Frodo looks up, Ceolwulf places a blanket
around his shoulders. "How did you survive?" he asks
softly as Frodo pulls the blanket around himself.
"They wouldn't let me die," Frodo
expression dark as though he were gazing again at his
tormentors. He falls silent and avoids Ceolwulf's
eyes as he helps Frodo slip on his long nightshirt.
But Ceolwulf reads shame in the halfling's downcast
eyes and slumped posture. He bends to place a hand on
Frodo's shoulder. Frodo meets his eyes.
"You should not be ashamed, my friend,"
"You should wear them as badges of honor. For you
risked everything for the freedom of Middle Earth--for
all, even me. And the failure of your quest was not
your fault, for you did your best. The enemy saw your
strength and hated you for it, and sought to break
you, but after all his efforts he could not--you
showed that today. The enemy punished you for your
heroism, which he could not defeat. That is a source
of honor, my friend, not of shame."
Frodo wipes his eyes with the back of his
"Thank you," he smiles. He lies back, glad that
Ceolwulf will stay there with him till he wakes. If
only it were Sam...but Frodo tries to keep from
thinking that. At least now he has a new friend.
The One Ring...
Early morning of June 27
Coressponds with A Night in Nurn
Elffled and Rian are awakened from their
slumber in the wee hours of the morning by the sound of their
chamber door opening. Rian braces herself to flee or fight, but
instantly relaxes when she sees the familiar form of Elfhild entering
the room. Elffled rises from the low bed to meet her sister, but
instantly gasps when she surveys her in the dim candlelight of
the room. The skin around Elfhild's eye is dark and swollen, and
chemise is torn in places, scuffed with dirt and... is it? ...
yes, it is ... a few speckles of blood... yet black mixes with
"Elfhild! What happened!" exclaims Elffled. Rian's eyes widen and she throws back her covers and sits on the side of her bed. "All seemed well when I left you and Lord Frodo."
"Ceolwulf got into a fight with Vartang, and then we got in a scuffle with the orc guards," replies Elfhild, her eyes shining.
"Oh! Did you kill any of the scum?" her sister asks hopefully.
"Sadly, nay, but I'm sure that several of the orcs have nice bruises now. Besides, we would surely be killed if any of the filth died. Things almost did turn ugly with Vartang, but Lord Frodo interceded on our behalf."
"Tis a good thing. That Vartang is a foul man, it's painfully obvious to see," says Elffled. Rian shudders and nods her head in agreement. "But I wonder," continues Elffled, "how did Lord Frodo come into a position of power in this dreadful land? He does not seem a cruel sort. And he is a halfling! A hobytla, come out of legend and into flesh and blood. I do not know which is stranger... a kind master in this land, or one who is a halfling!"
"He does not serve the Nameless Enemy willingly," says Elfhild. "He told Ceolwulf and me a bit of his story. There was a Great Ring, which was made by the Enemy. It was thought to be lost for many long years, but was found again by Lord Frodo's uncle. Years later, it was decided that this Ring should be sent to the Nameless Land and destroyed in the mountain where it was created. Lord Frodo went on this quest, but he was captured and the Ring was taken from him by force. And somehow he was sent here, to this wretched land."
"So he is a thrall, then, just like us," Elffled says quietly.
Elfhild nods. "He feels he has failed the West, and all of the hurts and sorrows of Gondor and Rohan are upon his head."
"He should not feel that way," Elffled says with concern. "Twas not his fault, for he did not give the Ring to the Enemy willingly; it was taken by force. He should not judge himself so harshly."
A thoughtful silence descends upon the two sisters. "Yet it is my thought," Elfhild begins slowly, "that it proved indeed folly to take this Ring into the very heart of the evil land. It should have been taken far, far away, where no one could ever find it."
"Sometimes even the best plans can go awry. This, perhaps, was not the best plan, but it was still well-meant."
"Still, I deem it folly, though I would not dare tell my lord that. If it were my doing," Elfhild says, rather proudly, " i would have given this Ring to a noble man of the West, someone strong of mind and body, who had power enough to wield it."
"Something tells me there is more to it than that," responds Elffled. "Perhaps no mortal hands can wield this Ring, save the hands of the one who made it, and all deeds that are attempted by anyone save its master fall to evil."
Elfhild's shoulders slump slightly. Why did her sister always have to sound so sensible, so noble? "Well.... Lord Frodo did say something to that effect, but.... how would one know unless he tried to bend this thing to his will? I still say it was folly to send it to the Nameless Land! If not use it, then hide it somewhere." She pauses for a moment, as if contemplating something. She says softly, a wistful look in her eyes, "If it were my doing, I would have used the Ring, and attempted to right some of the wrongs in the world. Use the Enemy's own devices against him! At least things would have been better than they are now."
"Maybe," says Elffled, "but I doubt even your strong will could conquer the weapon of the Enemy, sister. Best not to even think of it! It is beyond anyone's reach now."
Elfhild falls silent, pondering Frodo's tale and her sister's words. Still, if it had been her choice, she would have given that Ring to someone of power, or attempted to wield it herself. But she dares not counter the words of her lord nor tell her thoughts directly to him, for she still feels helpless and far from home, and does not fully trust the halfling yet.
An Uneasy Sleep
Night of July 1
Corresponds with The Circles of the World
She sees it, in all its dreadful glory,
high upon the hill in Armenelos long before she is ever brought
to the dreadful structure itself. Five-hundred feet tall it stands,
crowned with a mighty dome that once shone silver in the sun,
but is now black from the never-ending smoke which pours from
its top. She screams and sobs as she is led up the hill, but yet
her captors have no mercy, for she is one of the Faithful, and
they are men of King Ar-Pharazon. Soon, she finds herself bound
upon a cold, stone altar, stained with blood of previous sacrifices...it
is surrounded by kindling wood, which has been drenched in oil,
for the next offering to the Dark Lord... So far has Numenor fallen,
so complete is its corruption, when those who still are faithful
to the Valar and kind to the elves are sacrificed to the Enemy
in the Void! Vaguely, through a mist of horror, she sees the black-robed
priest looming above her, holding the ceremonial knife aloft,
poised right above her heart... he begins to chant in a fell voice...
drums beat wildly and the crowd cheers with sadistic glee and
anticipation... Suddenly, the knife thrusts downward and...
Rian wakes up screaming. Elfhild and Elffled rush to her bedside, trying to comfort the shaking, sobbing girl. Finally, her hysteria subsided, the two golden-haired sisters return to their beds. Rian pulls the covers about herself, yet she does not sleep. Who could, after dreaming that? And after what she had been through earlier that day, she wondered if she could sleep at all for the next few nights, for she greatly feared the nightmares that would come upon her as she slept.
She had almost been sacrificed to the Nameless Enemy, and the Great Enemy in the Void that day, just like one of the Faithful in the latter-days of the isle of Numenor the Downfallen. That morning, Arnasa had given the three girls of the West fancy dresses to wear and garlands of flowers to adorn their heads and hang about their necks. Rian had wondered about this, but she had assumed that they given such finery for some peaceful outing, perhaps a trip to the city, and not because they were to be sacrificial maidens to the Lords of Darkness.
Rian shuddered as she remembered the journey to the Sacred Grove, and the sight of the obelisks of the Great Eye, and finally the terrible idol and its dark, blood-stained altar. She had fallen into a swoon from the sheer horror, and had not awakened until Lord Frodo's party was about to leave; however, Elffled and Elfhild had told her what had transpired while she lay in a blissful state of oblivion upon the dusty ground. The entourage had left as the sacrifices were beginning, and Rian quickened her pace and dared not look back when she heard the agonizing screams of the victims upon the altar.
She wondered how much longer she would live in this land full of heathens and enemies, but she did not fear death. Pain and torture, yes, but not the actual state of death itself. It was not an evil thing, such as the Numenoreans of old thought, but the Gift of the One to the race of Men. Perhaps soon she would sojourn for a while in the Halls of Waiting, and after that, travel out of the circles of the world, beyond which was more than memory.
Night of July 1/early morning of July 2
Corresponds with The Circles of the World
In the cold night under the fiercely gleaming
stars, Arnasa kneels grieving before a metal basin filled with
her own burning hair. She is dressed in dirty rags; large smudges
of dirt and ashes adorn her body. Her ceremonial dagger lies beside
her; it is made of silver and carven with fell runes, the hilt
adorned with rubies.
All of her life's hopes had been crushed earlier that day. She had braided her hair in elaborate braids and chosen a fine dress of purple and gold for the occasion, and the smell of the flower garlands upon her head and around her neck mingled with her exotic perfume oils.
But she was not chosen. She had been called mad, and unfit to be an offering to the great Lords of Darkness. Oh, how she had always longed to join the Dark Lord in the never-ending Darkness Beyond at one of the ceremonies in Nurn. Why had Master Frodo called her mad? What had she done? She felt she was worthless, utterly devoid of any purpose upon Middle-earth.
She lifts her arms high in the air. "Oh Great Lords of Darkness!" She bows low several times towards the direction of Barad-dur, her forehead touching the ground. "The Eye in the Dark Tower and the Dark One Beyond! Hear the humble prayer of Your handmaiden, poor, simple Arnasa daughter of Arthin, who has been deemed mad! Purge her of this malady so that she might please Ye with her body, her blood and her last breath, and join the Dark One in the Darkness Beyond."
But what did it matter? She was mad, worthless, filth that walked. She convulses into violent sobs, dragging her forehead back and forth in the sandy earth. Rising back up, yet still kneeling, she begins to softly chant in the dark language. Soon, her voice forms a slow, mournful song of lamentation. Her head tilts back and tears stream down her cheeks as she sings and slowly makes small nicks in her arms with her dagger.
She continues her dark ceremonies for hours under the starlight sky, weeping and wailing softly and singing songs of sadness, until finally she collapses from exhaustion and falls into a deep slumber of grief.
Findulias finds Arnasa's sleeping form
in the yard in the early morning. The young girl is filthy, dressed
in rags and her arms are covered with small cuts. She has shaved
her hair, and from appearances, also her... eyebrows. Her fingers
still curl around the hilt of a dagger, and a small basin filled
with ashes sits nearby. Findulias is moved in pity for the poor
deluded thrall, daughter of a heathen people, dwellers of darkness,
worshipers of Powers who are filled with malice and hatred and
care naught if their followers live or die.
She gently touches Arnasa's shoulder. "Arnasa..."
The girl stirs. Dark eyes open wide with fear, but quickly focus and turn cold and emotionless. "Worthless... filth..." she mumbles, looking up into the sky.
Findulias is taken aback slightly, thinking the comment was directed towards her, but soon realizes that Arnasa is speaking about herself. "Arnasa, dear, you are most certainly not worthless nor are you filth!"
"Arnasa daughter of Arthin is a disgrace to her fathers, and is less than the lowest things which crawl upon the ground! Worm, worm she is! The earth should feel repulsion at the taint of her footsteps and spew her forth from the land of Nurn!"She begins to weep again.
"There, there," Findulias murmurs softly, "None of that is true. Let's get you cleaned up and dressed before breakfast, and we'll talk some more about it."
Arnasa nods her head slightly and Findulias helps her to her feet. They take a few steps towards the house, when Arnasa stops and breaks down in violent sobs. "Deemed unworthy!" she wails. Findulias halts, gently hugging the girl, trying to comfort her.
Arnasa's body goes rigid instantly "Why are you doing this?" she whispers, her throat scratchy and hoarse.
"Because, Arnasa, no matter what you have been told all your life, you are not worthless, and your life has value. You are a person, not a piece of dirt to be kicked around and stepped upon."
Arnasa falls into a sullen silence. "So you say," she replies icily, as she lets Findulias lead her into the house.
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